When it comes to tools for meeting life’s challenges, what does a lobster know that we don’t? After all aren’t they just really tasty crustaceans that live and die with the sole purpose of becoming someone’s dinner?
About 22 years ago I was introduced to the concept of “lobstering” by a friend. She shared with me an article that had been published in 1986 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It was written by the columnist Darrell Sifford. I have been keeping a copy of this article in my “inspirational writing” file for all these years…that is until a few days ago when our new puppy, Jazzy, decided it looked more like a snack than a keepsake! As I picked it up I was inspired to share it’s meaning.
As I researched this author, his bio revealed that he drowned in 1992 as he was snorkeling while on vacation on a Caribbean island. He was 60 years old. Mr. Sifford is remembered for his writing about pain and the rewards of human relationships winning numerous awards and admirers. I will remember him as the writer that introduced me to Eda LeShan.
Mrs. LeShan was born in 1922 and at the time of his column was 63 years old. She was a family counselor and one time moderator of the Emmy-nominated PBS series “How Do Your Children Grow” (70’s genre). Something very interesting happened to her while she was preparing to write her book “The Wonderful Crisis of Middle Age” years before. Speaking to a marine biologist at a dinner party, she began to ask him about his work. He asked her if she knew how a lobster could possibly grow when it had such a hard shell. He explained that when a lobster begins to feel crowded in his shell he knows instinctively that the hard shell must be discarded and a new larger one must be formed for survival. The lobster is in great danger during this process which takes about 48 hours. It can be eaten by other fish while it is completely naked and vulnerable. It can be tossed against the coral reef and badly damaged. But there is no alterative. If the hard shell is not given up, there is no room for growth. The risk is ESSENTIAL.
Eda LeShan goes on to say that she couldn’t get the imagery out of her head….even dreaming about it. Experiencing writer’s block, her therapist told her that the Lobster Story was symbolic of what she was going through. The metaphoric theme of the book being written on middle age could be summed up as a time of growth and change. And I would add… a time of vulnerability.
This is the part that I find SO fascinating… The problem with human beings is that, unlike the instinctual lobster, we don’t always know when it is time to de-shell, to take risks, to make room for new growth. And sometimes even when we recognize the symptoms – migraine headaches, marital crises, losing three jobs in a row, hurting someone we love – we don’t even have the courage of that lobster! We stay in dead-end jobs and dead-end relationships in deference to fear of the unknown.
Over the past twenty plus years I have often thought about this concept of out growing one’s shell and being naked and vulnerable against the outside elements. There have been times in my life that I just KNEW that my shell was too tight and that something had to change for me to be comfortable again….until the next “crowded shell” feeling hits.
Eda LeShan lived to be 79 years old. Darrell Sifford lived to be 60 years old. Neither of those numbers sound very old to me as I’m in my mid-fifties. No one really knows what comes at the end of our dash (after our birthdate) or as one of my dear friends likes to say “the expiration date on the birth certificate”! All I know is that like that lobster….I’m out there forming a new shell….even as we speak!
Adapted, in part, from a story published in the Philadelphia Inquirer December 29, 1986 written by Darrell Sifford.
According to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eda_LeShan
Eda LeShan (June 6, 1922 – March 3, 2002) was an American writer, television host, counselor, educator, and playwright. She was a “voice of respect for the inherent integrity of children.” LeShan was married to Lawrence LeShan, the American psychologist and writer.
LeShan’s books include When Your Child Drives You Crazy, The Conspiracy Against Childhood, and It’s Better to be Over the Hill than Under It. She was the host of How Do Your Children Grow? on PBS in the 1970s.
Recommended Blog about “Lobstering” http://droppedin.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/lobstering/